Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has called for changes in the constitution to increase his power and allow him to extend his rule. Under current laws, Mr Chavez is in his second and final term as head of state. His proposals would allow him to stay on as long as he keeps winning elections.
Riding a wave of personal popularity, Mr Chavez told the National Assembly that he wanted to consolidate his self-styled Socialist revolution in the oil-rich state. His opponents fear the President wants to become leader for life, and could abuse his power. Right-wing critics, including the United States, brand him an authoritarian menace, and accuse him of using Venezuela’s oil riches to undermine democracy.
But the president said there is no country on Earth with a more vibrant democracy than the one in Venezuela today. Chavez has used his country’s oil wealth to fund a series of social programmes. It’s earned him strong support among the poor, who have responded by handing him repeated election victories.